Wearable Futures is a cross-disciplinary umbrella programme for designers who are interested in the cluster of technologies and experiences that have the human body and its covering as their centre of focus.
The course offers a holistic environment based on the integration of creative computing, digital craftsmanship and material cultures, while also incorporating the technologies and advances in hardware that are impacting on manufacturing techniques and associated applications. Wearable futures has come about as part of Ravensbourne’s current commitment to become creative leader in the field of wearable applications and body-centric design. Ravensbourne's digital research culture is contributing significantly in this context.
The main conceptual framework for the course will be provided by theories of digital craftsmanship, body-centric technologies and phenomenological readings and speculative philosophy. These will form an important research foundation for building Ravensbourne’s critical reach and will assist in helping you to sift and prioritise the current trends and thought relating to fashion and discussion around the body within data informed spaces. An interdisciplinary field of study will include interaction and experience design (UX), “making” and open source culture, design innovation and applied philosophy. You will be introduced to philosophical trends and these will tie in with your practice and help you to develop a critical view incorporating design fiction and other emerging theories. You will engage with research methods such as participatory, user study and user-centered design.
"One of the exciting things about the design industries today is that boundaries of former categories such as fashion, product or experience design have been broken down" - Alexa Pollman, Subject leader, MA Wearable Futures.
The course is a platform for investigation, dissemination and analysis around contemporary theory and practice in the wearable industries. The course’s core role will be to foster your understanding of this market and to identify latent demand within the commercial sphere and to highlight future applications and directions. The aim will be to help you to influence the decision makers so that wearable solutions will be accepted and meet the cultural and ethical expectations when designing for the human body and the garment-industry. You are expected to consider the cultural and social role inherent to fashion as a part of wearable futures.
Wearable futures students will focus their investigations on the key flashpoints of the body as an interface for what is a symbiotic, physical and digital exchange. As part of the design methodology of the course, you will be asked to develop future scenarios and narratives in order to help you and your clientele to understand the concomitant social, environmental or cultural challenges of designing for a matter as delicate as the human body.
"At the moment we’re still very much in the “task” piece of wearable computing, not in the symbolic “how do we make sense of it” piece. I think in the wearable space we are still bringing all the old metaphors of computation with us and still interpreting them in a somewhat literal way—that they are a smaller smartphone, or a little computer. It will become much more interesting when we let go of that and work out the promise that wearable computing will make to us." Genevieve Bell, Anthropologist at Intel
Get to know the subject leader: Alexa Pollman
- Tell us about yourself
For me, garments are social reactors and I like to challenge the current notion of ‘wear’. I have experienced the industry from different angles: my original profession was in fashion design, but I have also worked as a creative consultant and spent my fair share of time in showrooms, for both – big and small brands.
I completed the Design Interactions Programme at the Royal College of Art, and collaborating with various disciplines has enriched my perspective as a designer.
Luckily, I have been awarded different grants that have allowed me to pursue my own work - Peut-Porter is my design consultancy agency and platform which researches and provides forecasts on wear and fashion. Currently, I am Designer in Residence at the Design Museum London and will have new work on show from September 2015.
- What's your opinion on the current state of wearable futures?
We currently find a variety of opinions on wearables and truthfully spoken, I see a lot of problems occurring with their application. This is why it is important to train specialists who can engage with the topic in a much broader sense than is currently being done by the industry. Our wearable futures students will be asked to be highly innovative but at the same time engage with the cultural and social impacts of body-centric design. We need them to bridge the gap between artisans and material or textile specialists and the tech world.
The fashion system successfully uses technology in many experience-based ways and this seems like a very natural process to me as the narrative, experience-based aspect seems inherent to fashion. Wearable futures will not only produce gadgets and devices, it will help to define our relationship to technology when it enters our personal spheres, it will look at the moral and ethical side of data-capturing as well as its technological possibilities and ask students to research and design future aspects and needs of wear.
- Is this course right for me?
This course will focus on body-centric design – a topic which is currently being explored in a massive range of disciplines. We will ask for an extremely flexible mind, someone who is eager to work with various media and collaborate with science, engineers and artists to create their own definition of wearables.
Studying an MA should allow a student to find his or her very own position, strength and reason to design. Whether their work will have a technological, experiential , future or fashion focus will in the end be very much up to what they have decided to explore in the process. We want students to become ambassadors who understand not only the technological aspects and applications of wear but the medium that they will most closely be working with – the human body.
- Why are you so passionate about this course subject?
I think the course has potential to become a wake-up call – what are we doing to ourselves and our bodies? How much more obsessed with data capturing and monitoring will we become? We can’t ignore the trends and tendencies but we need to discuss and open up the field, get some creative minds together and talk about the cultural meaning of ‘wear’ and how that can work intriguingly when paired with technology.
For me, one of the big pluses of Ravensbourne is the fact that it doesn’t have a ‘traditional’ fashion orientation but instead is very interested in the digital and technological aspects of education. I especially feel that our MA courses have a lot to offer in terms of a general interdisciplinary approach, more so because they take in a small amount of people. Designers need one another to work and explore their role and as the MA’s share the same space, we will surely see a lot of cross overs with the other courses. Also, we have had quite some interest from big industries and I think we will see some exciting collaborations happening here in the future.
1. Technology Issues – will ask you to engage and experiment with technologies used in the body-centric design sector. The three provided project briefs will explore such fields as data-capturing, 3D Printing and alternative production methods or sensory technology. You will work with fellow students and develop quick mock-ups to understand the mediums at hand and create wear with a focus on experiences.
2. Business and Innovation – will help you understand the business and innovative practices used in the creative industries. Could your idea become a successful product and how can you find a niche to place yourself in? Wearable Technology is one of the quickest growing markets of the industry and your contribution to the field could have manifold impacts.
3. Concept & Prototyping – will allow you to develop your personal design method and introduce you to an holistic design-strategy. You will be asked to present your concepts employing various media and design speculative, narrative and plausible futures in order to challenge and understand the needs, hopes and dreams related to wearables.
4. The Research Process – will help you to investigate and strengthen your concepts and ideas by teaching you the skills and methods needed to ground you personal project in an academic context.
5. The Major Project – represents the culmination of the design work and the research you conducted in your studies. In this unit, you will forge a specialist project and work self-managed and practice-based, seek advise from specialists outside the college and present your personal take on the future of wearables.